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gary1701


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#3306 2008-11-21 20:46 GMT-5 hours    
Hi all,

I thought I would put together a few comments on how to submit data for USAF aircraft to the database given the request made in the forum elsewhere and that it does seem be a area that does cause some confusion when I view the pics in the queue.

Obviously it doesn't help that the USAF uses different formats when displaying coding on aircraft. The format usually used on types operated by USAF commands other than AMC is shown below.

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Photo © Gary Stedman


This F-15's identity would usually be referred to as 76-0113/JZ. The JZ is obviously the two-letter code assigned to the unit/base and is to be entered in the code field when submitting the data. Nothing else goes there. The serial starts with the last two of the fiscal year, usually in small type under the 'AF', as shown here. Now comes the bit that can be a real pain, the four numbers that are the aircraft's actual number. This is a pain because - as shown here - all four numbers are often not shown on the airframe. It does happen on some units, the F-15s of the 48th FW do show four number serials, but the F-16s of the 31st FW only use three, to use USAFE units as examples. I find a lot of images in the screening queue have either just put down the three visible numbers, or assume that the first one is a 0, which it frequently is not. When this happens there isn't really any way to get the info from the aircraft (unless you're close enough to see the full serial usually marked in tiny stencilling on the forward fuselage!), so you have to do your research elsewhere, I find just googling the known serial and code in the correct format above often comes up with the answer. As Walter mentioned in the other thread the link below is the bible when it comes to US serials (all services, not just USAF). Obviously you need the fiscal year to use this database but it's always my first stop when a serial needs editing here.

http://home.att.net/~jbaugher/

When you have the serial, it needs to be entered in the registration number field in the following format; 76-0113. That covers USAF serials presented in the non AMC format, but what about all the AMC heavies with serials like this example;

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For a start, don't use the abbreviated serial on the nose, unless you can't read the serial on the fin. The tail shows 38019, a five figure number being the usual format used on AMC types. The last four numbers will be the four figure serial (as in 0113 for the F-15 above). The first number visible (in this case a 3) will be the second number of the fiscal year code, the first number of the year is omitted and is the one that has to be found from other sources, like with the F-15 above. With some experience of the timescales that certain types were built that number will become readily apparent quite easily. For example, all KC-135s were constructed in the late 50's or early 60's, so with the last year of the fiscal year code visible being a 3, it's a pretty good guide that the missing first number is a 6. The serial is then copied into the registration number field as before, with this example being 63-8019. With a USAF aircraft carrying it's serial in this format there isn't usually a code to enter either.

As always, there's a few exceptions to all the above guidelines, like the KC-135s at Mildenhall in the UK having their serials in the standard AMC pattern above, but carry a single letter code as well (in their case, it's in honour of the UK based 100th Bombardment Wing and the code they carried on their B-17s during the war). Also, most USAF fighter units have a number of aircraft that show a unit designation in shaded type where the serial is usually presented. The serial is then usually located elsewhere on the airframe. In these cases still enter the correct aircraft serial in the boxes, not the unit designation (it frequently happens!).

I hope that's of some help. If anybody does get stuck or sees a error somewhere in the database then by all means PM me and I'll see what I can do.

Gary Stedman
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#3318 2008-11-23 00:20 GMT-5 hours    
Wow man. If i had known all this before i uploaded my one KC-135 picture. Thanks a lot Gary, this helps a lot, now theres no more confusion about USAF serials number. I think i like our serial numbers better, much easier to understand.

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#3319 2008-11-23 07:53 GMT-5 hours    
It's a very brave man who a) becomes a database editor, and b) attempts to explain the USAF serial and coding system to us innocent people!

A couple of things I did not know until recently:

The U.S. Army serial system actually sits within the USAF serial progressions, however the actually serial numbers are much higher ie. 15000 upwards;

Missiles and drones also had USAF serials which is why some fiscal years seem to have had many thousands of aircraft produced;

In the late 50's and 60's it was common to see USAF aircraft wearing serials prefixed by 0- , this denoted that the aircraft was over 10 years old. Of course that would be almost universal now

It is possible for the same make of aircraft to wear the same 'last three' digits, the F-4 Phantom has caught me out quite a few times like this;

Sometimes aircraft waering special marks on the tail fin commemorating a particular Wing or Squadron are using the actual aircraft serial, but sometimes they don't and the real serial is hidden elsewhere in tiny letters!

All fun stuff and thanks for the good work you do here Gary

"Rolling..." B-36H serial 51-5734 Film 'Strategic Air Command' 1955 - Six Turning and Four Burning!

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#3321 2008-11-23 20:36 GMT-5 hours    
To ad to this topic: a great help to me to find the correct USAF/USAr serial is http://home.att.net/~jbaugher/usafserials.html

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#3322 2008-11-23 21:35 GMT-5 hours    
Hi again,

Thanks for the words of support above. I can't say I can offer a comprehensive guide to many other air arms but thankfully most others are not quite as involved as the USAF!

Michael's comments about the former USAF system of adding a '0' prefix to airframes over ten years old reminded me of something that might also be of interest. The US Army currently uses that exact system on it's H-60 and AH-64 fleets (and presumably also on other types as well although I haven't seen it yet). The Blackhawk below is a good example - and is probably the only USAR H-60 airframe in the database in which the serial is clearly readable!

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Photo © James Shelbourn


Aircraft is marked 0-24584 but is actually 87-24584. US Army airframe serials are recorded in the same style as USAF aircraft in the database. If the airframe is less than ten years old then the serial will be marked exactly as I indicated for the KC-135 example above (for example, if it was actually 01-24584, then 124584 would appear on the airframe). As can be seen, a aircraft over ten years old will not be marked with either number from it's fiscal year, so a little bit of research is going to be required, the site quoted above (my URL and Joop's are the same site) is again your best place to go. If you don't have a fiscal year at all then I'm afraid it's a process of elimination. That should cover US Army as far as I'm aware.

Going back to the USAF and just to emphasis what Michael said about older aircraft carrying the same 'last three', that is where you need to be careful on types built in large quanities over several years. As the aircraft's actual serial can be identical on the odd occasion, just a different fiscal year.

This is one of Jonathan's F-16 shots to illustrate the point on unit markings. It's a 35th FW/13th FS airframe and is marked for the 13th Fighter Squadron, the airframe's actual serial (92-3913) is marked on the spine in tiny text.

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Photo © Jonathan Derden - Jetwash Images


I should have said above that this is not just limited to fighter units, but is widespread throughout all USAF flying units. Unless I've missed it, there doesn't appear to be any pattern to where the serials are placed on a given type, it only seems consistent through the actual unit. I've seen F-16's with the serial on the rudder, on the ventral stabilizer, even the fuselage. As Michael says, they went through a long period where a aircraft that carried a serial that matched the units number (if on strength) would have the serial modified to read the required unit. Frankly, some of these bodge jobs looked a real mess and they seemed to have died out in recent years to the system above.

Hope that's a further help.

Gary Stedman

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#3498 2009-01-10 23:01 GMT-5 hours    
Hey guys I have this picture of this F-16 from Shaw AFB, It's one of the Vipers from the east demo team. It's got SW AF93540. I've attempted searching for both fiscal years 79 and 89 with no results. Can someone please help, Thanks in advance.

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#3499 2009-01-11 00:09 GMT-5 hours    
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31 Bravo :
Hey guys I have this picture of this F-16 from Shaw AFB, It's one of the Vipers from the east demo team. It's got SW AF93540. I've attempted searching for both fiscal years 79 and 89 with no results. Can someone please help, Thanks in advance.



This aircraft would actually be serial 93-0540 (cn CC-175) which is a Viper East demo bird. The '93' is the fiscal year. The missing digit is the zero (in this case), but this omitted number can range from 0-3 for the USAF F-16s.

Some more info on this particular jet can be found here

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#3500 2009-01-11 14:13 GMT-5 hours    
Another useful link: http://users.rcn.com/jeremy.k/serialSearch.html

This form allows you to search the site of Joe Baugher with only the tail portion of the serial number, if that is all that you know. It gives you a list with all possible matches.

I have noticed that Joe Baugher's site doesn't always state the construction number of the aircraft. If that is the case, try entering the complete serial at the Dutch aviation site scramble.nl: http://scramble.nl/milbase.htm Over the years I have noticed that they have a slightly bigger list of construction numbers then Joe Baugher's site.

Hope this helps everyone,

Tristan

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#3501 2009-01-11 14:52 GMT-5 hours    
Thanks a lot Jonathan.

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#3510 2009-01-13 03:36 GMT-5 hours    
Another tidbit: don't take it for granted that the serial number painted on a USAF aircraft is correct. I've personally seen two A-10s sporting incorrect serials. In one instance, the FY was painted as 79 instead of 78; in the other, the serial painted on the nose above the refueling receptacle was garbled. I don't know whether this was done intentionally, but the fact it was done at all shows the importance of using other sources to confirm the number -- unless you want to give Gary more work!

-M.M.

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#3526 2009-01-17 21:24 GMT-5 hours    
Hi all,

Just to say that due to a couple of minor difficulties I haven't been able to access the site for getting on for a fortnight. Sorry for my lack of response above and thanks to those who stepped in. Should be back to normal now.

Gary

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